Complexity and collaboration – implications for leadership and practice
The contemporary emphasis on collaboration in organisational discourse is counter-cultural. Managerialism depends a lot on metrics which emphasise and scrutinise the individual. It is very rare to find a process of performance appraisal, for example, which takes into account teamwork. Ordinarily staff may be invited to be their ‘best selves’ at work, to make good individual choices, and to align with the values.
The new interest in collaboration might be understood as a movement towards groups, perhaps a reminder to reconsider what we have always known. It is ironic that all the texts which are currently being written linking the importance of collaboration for innovation, say, are offered breathlessly as though this is both a novel and deep insight into the human condition. We have always, and always will collaborate. But collaboration doesn’t just lead to the good – people also collaborate to resist, subvert, and to block. Nor is collaboration the only thing which is going on in a group when people are trying to get things done together. The moment we make conscious the intention to collaborate, then all kinds of other motives and activities may come to the fore, including competition, rivalry and anxiety. Continue reading →
‘…the most admirable thinkers within the scholarly community you have chosen to join do not split their work from their lives.’
C Wright Mills, Appendix to The Sociological Imagination.
In previous posts we have considered what it means to be critical. To bring one’s critical faculties to work can be unsettling for oneself and for others because it begins to reveal, and perhaps pick away at, power relationships. Perhaps Kant was the first philosopher to observe that to use one’s critical judgement involves subjecting authority to scrutiny and come face to face with the exercise of power. What we take to be given, taken for granted, which is one of the ways that power works in society, may suddenly appear to be less so. And there may be a cost in denaturalising the way things are done around here particularly if the dominant ethos in the organisation is appreciative, or sets great store by ‘alignment’. The cost might be to exclude oneself or to make oneself vulnerable. Continue reading →
What does it mean to be critical? – complexity, reflexivity and doubt in everyday organisational life.
For this year’s Complexity and Management Conference we are delighted to have Professor André Spicer from the Cass Business School, City, University of London to give the keynote on Saturday morning. André holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne. He has held visiting appointments at universities around the world. André is the author of many academic articles and nine books. The most recent are ‘Business Bullshit’, ’The Stupidity Paradox’ and ‘Desperately Seeking Self Improvement’.
The agenda for the one day introduction to complex responsive processes on Friday 17th May and for the conference on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May is here: CMC Agenda
There are still some places available, both for the one day workshop and for the conference, and you can book your place here.
Particularly from a UK perspective, where public discourse has become highly repetitive, accusatory and frankly boring, there has never been a better time to stop and think about what’s going on for us and whether our current ways of thinking about the world serve us well. What does it take to reflect together, to think critically about the predicaments we find ourselves in, and to question our own assumptions? How might we become more skilful in widening our circles of concern?
There is just a month to go until the annual Complexity and Management Conference 17-19th May entitled: What does it mean to be critical? – complexity, reflexivity and doubt in everyday organisational life. There are still some remaining places at the conference, as well as for the one day introductory workshop on complexity
Socrates in the Louvre
and management on Friday 17th May. It is also now possible just to book for the Saturday to hear the keynote and attend workshops presented by delegates on Saturday afternoon. The booking page is here.
Our key note speaker on Saturday 18th May is André Spicer from Cass Business School, who has developed an international reputation for confronting fads of management, ‘wellness’ and the idea of smart organisations for example, to provoke us to think about what we are encouraged to take for granted. André will talk about his forthcoming book on critique and doubt.
The conference is an unusual forum for creating time to discuss what matters to the delegates – to rediscover who we are becoming and how we might take the next step together.
What kind of experience can you anticipate at the Complexity and Management Conference 17-19th May at Roffey Park entitled: What does it mean to be critical? – complexity, reflexivity and doubt in everyday organisational life. And what might you expect if you sign up to the one day workshop on Friday 17th May? Early bird booking discounts end 1st April 2019 – so book here.
Starting with the one day workshop, you will have a chance to explore the relevance of complexity thinking for your work, drawing on an intellectual perspective which has been developed over a 20 year period. There will be two seminar sessions exploring the key ideas underpinning the body of ideas called complex responsive processes of relating, but in the main you will have lots of opportunities to think with others about what’s going on for you in your organisation. It is time and space to take your experience seriously. Participants from previous one day workshops have
found that it has prepared them better for the conference, although the workshop can be stand-alone too.
Meanwhile the conference, which begins with an inaugural dinner on Friday evening 17th at 7pm, is not a conventional academic event. You are very welcome to come and present a paper or a particular dilemma from your work during the workshop sessions on Saturday afternoon. But otherwise the only requirement is to come and participate fully with others to explore together why it is important to think critically in contemporary organisational life. In many ways the confer
ence itself is acounter-cultural event: there is time to reflect with no particular end in view apart from making meaning together, what the philosopher Hannah Arendt referred to as thinking without a bannister.
Conference fees, board and lodging are all included in the price. The conference ends after lunch on Sunday 19th May.
There are just three weeks to go before the end of early bird booking for this year’s Complexity and Management Conference 17th-19th May. As for the last two years we will also be offering a one-day introduction to complex responsive processes on Friday 17th May for anyone interested in the ideas, whether or not you go on to attend the conference.
This year we are expecting a good turn-out, partly because of our speaker Professor Andre Spicer, and partly because the event is a lively and thought-provoking occasion, where we talk about what matters with no particular end in view. Book soon to ensure you secure a place.
The title of this year’s conference, What does it mean to be critical? – complexity, reflexivity and doubt in everyday organisational life draws attention to the importance of making sense of contemporary organisational life in ways which call into question taken for granted assumptions.
Some of the things we might discuss at the conference, which I suggest are current pathologies of management, are set out below. None of these phenomena is new or unremarked upon and critiqued. Yet they still prevail in organisational life in ways which can lead to unhelpful behaviour in groups. They can distract from more productive ways of working which pay attention to the difficulties of getting things done together in the here and now. Continue reading →